Cocaine is an addictive illegal drug that causes tolerance, withdrawal, preoccupation with the drug, unsuccessful attempts to stop use, severe cravings, and continued use despite severe consequences. It can also cause sudden death.
Physical side effects include seizures, trembling, loss of balance, strokes, nerve damage, headaches, coma, nausea, stomach pain and major heart problems, including heart attacks. Difficulties swallowing, voice problems, gastrointestinal bleeding, bowel gangrene, nosebleeds and loss of weight, appetite, and the sense of smell also occur as a result of using cocaine.
Mental side effects include behavioral changes, violence, anxiety, agitation, irrational fears, depression and hallucinations.
Cocaine use also causes legal problems, accidental injuries and serious financial, occupational and familial problems.
Treatments for cocaine dependence aim to help the patient achieve abstinence, maintain recovery and prevent relapse.
Traditional treatment begins with initial detoxification—withdrawal from the drug—occurring in an overnight or outpatient setting. The patient is monitored for medical problems, and medications may be offered to manage symptoms.
Effective talk therapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and rational emotive therapy, are utilized to increase insight, establish goals, and resolve behavioral, psychological and social issues caused by the addiction.
Because the risk for relapse is significant, even following long periods of abstinence, it is essential for the patient to make appropriate changes in his or her life to prevent exposure to relapse triggers and decrease environmental cues to use cocaine.
There is no substitute for behavioral change. Self-help groups are often suggested as a method to support recovery, but are not a substitute for professional treatment and behavior change.
Similarly, herbal remedies may be used as a supplement to ease withdrawal, but they should not be used in lieu of behavioral change.
Herbal supplements are available without a prescription. They are classified as dietary supplements and generally are not reviewed for safety and effectiveness. However, any herbal remedy should be regarded with the same importance as a prescription medication.
These remedies have the potential for serious physical and psychological side effects. In fact, taking an herbal remedy can worsen existing health problems. Use of these supplements should be discussed with a personal physician and pharmacist, carefully weighing the potential risks and benefits.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a form of an amino acid (protein) known as L-cysteine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. It has been used as a remedy for a variety of illnesses. Sellers of NAC claim it is an effective alternative treatment for cocaine addiction.
A 2006 study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina published in the American Journal on Addictions in 2006 suggests that NAC has some promise in decreasing cravings and other withdrawal symptoms for cocaine addicts. Subjects in the study treated with NAC did not report significantly more side effects than the untreated group reported. The treatment group seemed to experience less craving and withdrawal symptoms than the untreated group. The type and amount of data available at this time are considered preliminary. Further research is needed to determine efficacy and safety.